Series squared in Perth


PERTH: The New South Wales (NSW) Blues have squared this year’s State of Origin series with a dominant 44-12 victory over Queensland in game two in Perth last night.
Blues coach Brad Fittler made a number of changes after the loss in Sydney and was vindicated as Matt Burton shone on debut and Jake Trbojevic was immense in his return to the Origin arena.
A penalty against Felise Kaufusi for a strip gave Nathan Cleary the chance to open the scoring and the Blues No.7 knocked over the kick to make it 2-0 after 12 minutes.
Selwyn Cobbo again had an opportuntiy to score in the 16th minute when To’o made a mess of cleaning up a grubber but the young Bronco was unable to ground the ball.
Harry Grant’s injection into the game in the 23rd minute had an immediate impact as he jumped into dummy half and ignited a right side raid which featured Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans and Kalyn Ponga, who delivered the final pass for Felise Kaufusi to score.​
Four minutes later the Blues hit back when debutant Matt Burton picked up a Nathan Cleary grubber and burst through Ponga’s tackle to score.
The speed of Ponga then came to the fore as he left Stephen Crichton in his wake and found Valentine Holmes in support and the centre delivered a perfect pass to Cameron Munster to put the Maroons up 12-8 after 31 minutes.
A huge turning point arrived in the 39th minute when Kaufusi was sin binned after repeated infringments in the ruck and the Blues capitalised through To’o for a 14-12 lead in favour of the Blues at halftime.
The Blues extended their lead in the 50th minute when a spilled bomb by Murray Taulagi opened the door for Cleary to set up Daniel Tupou with a long cutout pass.
With Cleary’s kicking game coming to the fore the Blues turned the screws and his Panthers team-mate Luai hit the scoreboard in the 59th minute with a sizzling solo effort.
In the 64th minute Cleary had his own moment of glory when he crossed for his first Origin try and the Blues were out to an unassailable 32-12 lead.
Cleary then took his own personal tally to 22 points with a second try and his sixth conversion.
Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton joined the party in the 74th minute as the score hit 44-12.
Cleary had two try assists, three tackle breaks, two line breaks and eight goals from eight attempts for 24 points to claim game two’s man of the match award.